Prokofiev Romeo and Juliet/Leinsdorf

0 of 5 stars

Romeo and Juliet, Op.64 [excerpts]
Lieutenant Kijé, Op.60 – Suite

David Clatworthy (baritone)

Boston Symphony Orchestra
Erich Leinsdorf

Recorded in Symphony Hall, Boston – 13 February 1967 (Romeo & Juliet) and 22 April 1968

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: October 2005
Duration: 72 minutes

Erich Leinsdorf was nearing the end of his music directorship of the Boston Symphony when he made these recordings of Prokofiev’s ballet and film scores. Both are worth hearing.

The conductor’s 50-minute selection from the complete ballet of Romeo and Juliet (rather than utilising Prokofiev’s own three suites) is lean- and grainy-sounding and with no lack of ardour or thrills – but it’s not laid-on with the proverbial trowel. Indeed, clarity is one of the main draws, certainly regarding the relief of instrumental lines, and there’s also a pin-point sense of rhythm that can be heard as dance-steps. Just occasionally one wishes that Leinsdorf had opened out the rhetoric of the music a little more. Some oddities of dynamics and scoring probably have more to do with Leinsdorf using the full score for his selective process than with any ‘touching up’ – not something that one would readily accuse Leinsdorf of. At times it seems that Leinsdorf made a curious selection of movements, but he notably turns the dramatic screw towards the end and the closing bars touch the heart in no uncertain terms.

The sound is good if a little lightweight, violins being slightly thin and the bass line rather light, and with some stridency in the most searing climaxes. Lieutenant Kijé is tonally fuller, and, if not quite matching George Szell’s peerless Cleveland version (CBS/Sony), there is much to enjoy in Leinsdorf’s pristinely detailed conducting, and especially for David Clatworthy’s contribution to the ‘Romance’ – the ‘solo’ normally being an orchestral double bass – and ‘Troika’. Clatworthy’s name may not suggest Russian nationality, but his performance does! Curiously, he is not credited anywhere in Testament’s presentation.

There’s a ‘quality’ here that is not to be gainsaid, both in terms of a ‘Great American Orchestra’ and with regard to Leinsdorf’s scrupulous, unaffected but penetrating musicianship.

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